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The Rune of Birth and Renewal

December 17, 1912 — Warncliffe Rooms, Great Central Hotel, London UK


We who are gathered here do not meet as human atoms blown together by a little wind of chance. Neither do we meet merely as personal friends. 

A life force has taken hold of us and has welded us with all our different individualities into one, just as the tones and overtones in a musical scale are welded into one in some short, or as words are welded in a line or a verse of a song.

We and many others who are present in our thoughts and women we represent — we individually and collectively have bene caught in the meshes of a Will that we may be used in the accomplishment of its purpose. By the decree of this Will, the time has come for a new birth of humanity, the hour has struck for the redemption of Woman from her age-long servitude, into the liberty of full human equality with Man, that she may fulfill with him the joint sacrifice and service that they owe to the human race.

In common we have seen this Vision that has changed our entire outlook upon the world. IN common we have been subjugated by this Idea that has altered the trend and habit of our life. In common we have felt the compulsion of this Law that has brought us into association together and has made us part of a living pattern, woven by destiny in the loom of Time, to a rhythm and rune which is making the world’s story. Moreover, we share a common wealth of deep experience. Most of us have, as a result of bearing witness to the faith that is in us, been through the ordeal of isolation or ridicule. We have been made to feel at one time or another, aliens in the world of everyday human life. Most of us have endured physical insult and violence. We have suffered assault and ignominy. Some of us have thrown aside position and place in the world and have scarified livelihood or career. Many amounts us are wearing, as I am, the prison badge with its broken chain. we are those who have ben arrested; and in prison have taken our place at the very bottom of the human scale, side by side with the shamed and the outcast. We have tested our condition in the living sepulcher of the prison cell. In order to keep the sword of our faith we have hungered to the point of exhaustion and have endured the final attempt to break down the will by the infliction of forcible feeding. 

Yes, we have tasted, each in our own measure and degree, the bitter cup, and have found it sweet. In weakness we have discovered our strength, in loss we have found gain, in isolation we have realised our inviolate union with all sentient life, and in extremity we have seen the face of death transfigured for evermore. And this is our common revelation and our common in inheritance. 

We then, who saw in this Woman’s Movement the promise of awakening and regeneration for the world, have, in giving ourselves up to become the channels of it, become ourselves awakened to a new fulness of life, have become ourselves regenerated. 

Thus in the little circle of our own experience we have seen how the law that guides this Movement operates, we have seen how the bitterest foxes have been used as the unconscious agents of deliverance, and how men of malignant purpose have been turned into blind tools for the shaping of history. In overcoming the obstacles that have been placed by enemies in its path, the Idea for which we stand has dominated the human consciousness of the world. 

As it is in the small circle of our own experience so it is and must be in the ever extending spheres of the operation of this Movement. In all countries men and women will become its willing agents or its blind tools. It will meet with hatred, opposition, and betrayal. But in the eternal rune that is the story of the world it is by the very enemy and the betrayer that the law is accomplished and destiny fulfilled. One thing is absolutely certain. And that is the triumph of the Idea and its established victory in the evolution of the human life. 

The word has gone forth. The rune of the awakening of the Soul of Womanhood has begun and will not end until in the visible world the strongholds of ignorance and materialism have been shaken to their foundations and overthrown, to give place to the new kingdom of the spirit which is to be established upon the earth. 

We must look for destruction. The smashing of glass in West London last March was a symbol of deep significance. It was the breaking through of reality into a dream. It was the rending of th tomb by the bursting forth of the living spirit that has been imprisoned there. Our thoughts were of the resurrection, but the world saw only evidence of violence in the barriers broken down and the grave clothes tossed away. For the world does not see the risen spirit, yet is in mortal terror at the thought of it. It wants no new birth. It cares supremely for the stability of its old institutions which are menaced by new life. The world is right from its own self-interested point of view. Its fears are well grounded.

We must be prepared for the breaking up o the material substance of life before the spiritual force that is in this Movement. When the rune of destiny is being changed the walls of palaces totter and the stones of the temples fall. We who have given ourselves up as welling agent of the Will that is behind the rune have to smash and be smashed. We must be ready both to break up and destroy material substance of things and also to acquiesce in the breaking up of the material substance of our own lives and even of our own bodies.

To play the game, while conscious that the game is being played through us! That is the essence of our militancy. We live by faith, we serve by action. Militancy itself has become a living and a quickening once. None of us will ever know the countless multitude of men and women who have become alive to their own nobility through the glorious spirit that has been liberated in the world during the seven years of this Militant Movement for the Emancipation of Woman.

What this militant spirit means to humanity, and especially at this crisis to womanhood, was told in a wonderful parable a few days ago in Votes for Women. Nothing as beautiful or so true has been said of our Movement, as it is said in that parable and the introductory comment upon it. The story tells how the transforming Spirit of Illumination has visited the ardent expectant soul, has been made one with it, leaving behind as hie gift the transfiguring sword. And the soul awed and exultant sings:

“From now there shall be no fear left for me in this world and thou shalt be victorious in all my strife. Thou hast left death for my companion and I shall crown him with my life. The sword is with me to cut asunder my bonds, and there shall be no fear left for me in the world.”



Source: Speeches and Trials of the Militant Suffragettes: The Women’s Social and Political Union, 1903-1918. ed. Cheryl R. Jorgensen-Earp (Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press) 1999, pp. 283-285.